Mugabe moves to take control of the Zimbabwe’s Anglican Church
But Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith went further in his defence of Mugabe’s continuing incommunication. He observed:
The Vatican is a Church; on what grounds can it ban someone from coming to Mass? It is perfectly true it could place Mugabe under interdict for his many sins and misdemeanours, but if you start with Mugabe, where would you finish? Should Berlusconi also be banned? What about the much married Sarkozy? What about, let us say, the late Robin Cook? In these circumstances, given the difficulty in judging politicians, it does seem reasonable to accept all comers. They accepted Mussolini and Jörg Haider, after all. The latter did cause an outcry, but to have banned him would have made every prospective visit a nightmare of potential protest.The assertion that an excommunication which starts with Mugabe would have no logical end is a proposition which His Grace will leave his readers and communicants to consider. It appears that there is one spiritual standard applied to the great and the good, and quite another for the lowly peasant. It is widely known that the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated a doctor for performing an abortion on a nine-year-old girl who had been chronically abused by her stepfather. The child's mother and the entire medical team involved in the procedure were also excommunicated, yet the rapist remained free to receive the sacred host and to continue getting drunk on the wine. Still, if you start with excommunicating rapists, where would you finish? Mugabe is a politician and so remains free to maim and murder, to terrorise and torture. But God help you if you have no political clout and attempt to act compassionately towards a raped nine-year-old who is carrying her step-father’s twins.
If by committing such sins and misdemeanours the not-so-faithful excommunicate themselves, it ought to be incumbent upon their pastors and priests to ensure that they do not eat and drink judgement upon themselves. What they bind on earth is bound in heaven (Mt 18:18). His Grace is of the view that Mugabe should be bound, gagged and a swift meeting arranged with his maker. The fact that he remains loose and in communion is a disgrace.
One wonders if this would be the case if he were doing to the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe what he is doing to the Anglican Church. This question was posed by the Rev’d Canon Bruce Saunders (Southwark Cathedral) in The Catholic Herald comment thread:
As an Anglican priest in London, Mugabe's visit makes me question the Vatican's rhetoric about ecumenism, limited as it has become. If Mugabe were doing to Catholics in Zimbabwe what he and his thugs are doing to Anglicans, maybe we'd hear a different story. Legitimately consecrated Anglican bishops are receiving death threats, masses are interrupted by the police, priests and congregations are regularly arrested, imprisoned and beaten, Anglican Church property has been stolen. The police, CIO and army are regularly employed to enforce this intimidation and violence. The courts are powerless or unwilling to enforce justice. The chief culprit is the excommunicated former bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, a political ally of the President and multiple beneficiary of land reform. Churches, schools, mission hospitals that I have visited are now being threatened and claimed by Kunonga. He has the President's authority to intimidate, arrest and harass. This is religious persecution. It appears that the Vatican either doesn't know what is happening to their separated brethren or doesn't care.The New York Times reports of the intensification of the ‘harassment’ of independent churches seen as hostile to Mugabe's government. While he singles out Roman Catholic bishops who have ‘a nauseating habit of unnecessarily attacking his person’, it is leaders of the Anglican Church ‘who have lately faced the most sustained pressure’.
From our armchairs, we can scarcely begin to imagine what this ‘harassment’ and ‘sustained pressure’ consists of:
“The throne is here,” declared Mr. Kunonga, who has held onto his bishopric here in the sprawling diocese of Harare through courts widely seen as partisan to Mr. Mugabe. He has also been backed by a police force answerable to the president, whom Mr. Kunonga describes as “an angel.”Canon Bruce Saunders was recently in the Masvingo diocese, which is basically the last standing ‘free’ bit of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. He writes:
...Anglican leaders here who have refused to submit to Mr. Kunonga’s authority say they have been subjected to death threats, spied on by state agents and blocked from worshiping in their churches or burying the dead in Anglican cemeteries.
Godfrey Tawonezvi, bishop of Masvingo, described a visit from two men, who told him that Mr. Kunonga had instructed them to “eliminate” the five bishops who stood in the way of his controlling the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. “They had all our phone numbers, our home addresses,” Mr. Tawonezvi recalled.
Julius Makoni, the bishop of Manicaland, another of the five, said in an interview, “We’re all being followed.”
...Mr. Kunonga’s aim, he and his adviser, the Rev. Admire Chisango, said, is for their breakaway Anglican church to control about 3,000 churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi — a treasure accumulated since Anglican missionaries first arrived in what is now Zimbabwe during the 19th century.
...Most Anglicans in Harare have remained in congregations under Bishop Gandiya and the global Anglican Communion. They have been barred from worshiping in Anglican churches, gathering instead in rented churches and schools, open fields, even cemeteries. The police have interpreted court rulings as giving the Kunonga faction control of church properties.
The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, who leads the Anglican Communion, wrote Mr. Mugabe this year, beseeching him to stop “the continuing bullying, harassment and persecution” of Anglicans in Zimbabwe — but received no reply, the archbishop’s press secretary said.
‘We are beyond fear’ was the answer an Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe gave me ten years ago when I asked him how he and his people were coping with the relentless intimidation from the Zimbabwean Government, police and security forces. Since then the situation has dramatically deteriorated. Intimidation has become physical violence. Threats have turned into beatings, rape and murder. The people’s trust in the forces of law and order has been blatantly abused by repeated acts of injustice, and as the Bishop of Harare has said recently, ‘When the justice system and the police are themselves corrupt, who can we turn to for justice?’Since the persecution is now extending beyond the Anglican Church to all denominations who attempt to assist or speak up for the oppressed, perhaps the Vatican might consider excommunicating Comrade Mugabe once and for all? They needn’t worry about having to do the same to Berlusconi or Sarkozy, for the governments of Italy and France tend to treat their peoples rather more like human beings and their politicians have a higher appreciation of the meaning of the sanctity of life.
Anglican Church leaders continue to receive death threats, and believers are subject to violent harassment when they attempt to meet for worship. Churches, schools and mission hospitals are invaded and appropriated for the greater glory of Mugabe.
...With the forces of law and order complicit in the persecution, with no financial resources to mount a legal challenge in the courts, and with the West having largely lost interest in the intractable Zimbabwean situation, the Church in Zimbabwe can only wait and suffer until the close personal relationship between Mugabe and Kunonga comes to a natural end.
It is not bigotry to demand the excommunication of incarnate evil: it is an expression of solidarity with those who are being persecuted, tortured and murdered. Having failed to elicit any response from Mugabe, perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury might consider writing to Pope Benedict XVI in the hope that he might help to bring an end to ‘the continuing bullying, harassment and persecution’ of Anglicans and all Christians in Zimbabwe.